A Biohunt to explore and document the biodiversity of Wildcat Canyon

Authors: Jennifer Hernandez and Peter Cowan

Overview: In this lesson, students explore their local environment and become familiar with the tools used for collecting specimens. They will practice observational skills and learn some field techniques, such as aerial netting, field drawing, and use of quadrats. The students also learn the term biodiversity and experience it for themselves.

Lesson Concepts:

  • Scientists use different techniques to discover what lives in a habitat.

  • An ecosystem changes through the seasons.

  • Factors such as water, temperature, plant life, etc. influence what organisms will be found in a habitat.

Grade span: 7-8

Materials: Each group is provided with a tool kit that includes the supplies listed below, with the exception of the digital camera.

  • Collection vials for insects (15 vials/group)

  • Nets (aerial and sweep)

  • Ziploc bags for sweep netting (1 large per group)

  • Clipboards (to hold scavenger hunt list and to use for writing/drawing) (1 per group)

  • Collection bag to hold specimens (2 per group)

  • Pencils (1 per student)

  • Digital camera (one for each fellow/teacher) (1 per fellow — bring our own)

  • Hand lens (2 per group)

  • Kits for measuring environmental qualities: temperature and light (1 per group)

  • 1 m2 quadrat (1 per group)

  • Student field notebook (pdf) (1 per group?)

Time: About three hours

Grouping: Students work in groups of three or four?


The students are scientists on a trek to document the plants and animals that live in Wildcat Canyon Park. To aid the students in their exploration, they will be divided into groups and each group will be provided with a set of tools used by scientists to study the natural environment. Each group is given a list of activities and items for collection; students are instructed to complete at least five tasks. The activity list is designed to provide students with experience collecting a variety of organisms and measuring environmental characteristics.

This activity includes a follow-up lesson involving discussion and synthesis of the information. As a class the students can generate one or two hypotheses accounting for differences between collections. Students will create posters in the follow-up lesson displaying their information and collections and addressing their hypotheses.

  1. 8:30-9:15: Depart Adams Middle School and walk to location of hunt in Wildcat Canyon Park.

  2. 9:15-9:25: Divide the students into groups (5-6 students each). Hand out the "tool kit" to each group. Take the students to the general area of where they will collect. Briefly discuss safety rules.

  3. 9:25-9:40: Discuss the directions for the biohunt with each group. Introduce the students to the basic tools in their kit; it is not necessary to tell them how to use every tool but it may be helpful to ask for ideas on the use of a quadrat, etc. Mention that they will be making an informational poster.

  4. 9:40-9:45: Each group will select a point within their designated collection area to photograph. The photograph should include a landmark that will enable the Spring groups to identify that habitat location.

  5. 9:45-10:45: Biohunt. During the biohunt the fellows can photograph specimens that cannot be removed from the park.

  6. 10:45-11:00: Release any insects that were collected and clean up.

  7. 11:00-11:30: Walk back to class